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What Is Paprika Sauce?

Paprika sauce is a vibrant, flavorful condiment that originates from the culinary traditions of Spain and Hungary. Made from ground sweet or spicy paprika peppers, it adds a smoky depth to dishes. Whether drizzled over meats or stirred into stews, its rich color and taste can transform a meal. How might paprika sauce elevate your next dish? Continue reading to find out.
Allison Boelcke
Allison Boelcke

Paprika sauce is a condiment that consists primarily of paprika and cream, wine, or chicken stock. Paprika is a spice with a distinctive bright red color, made from ground bell peppers and chili peppers. As a result of its hue, it is often sprinkled atop of dishes as a garnishment to add more color to the dish. It is produced mainly in Hungary and Spain and is available in sweet and hot varieties. Paprika sauces made from Hungarian paprika tend to have a sweeter undertone compared to those made with Spanish paprika, which have a smokier taste.

The exact process of making a paprika sauce may vary depending on the specific recipe, but there are basic techniques that most recipes tend to have in common. Paprika may be heated in a pan with butter or oil on the stovetop to make the spice release its natural flavors. Thicker paprika sauces may call for heating the paprika with flour and butter to make a paste, and then whisking in chicken stock or other liquid to form a gravy-like base. Once it is done cooking, sour cream may be stirred in to add a creamy taste and thick texture; however, sour cream is usually not recommended to be added during the actual cooking process or it may curdle. Thinner versions of the sauce may call for fresh cream to be added in during the actual cooking to add a rich flavor without the thickness that sour cream provides. Alternatively, cooks may even leave out the cream in favor of chicken stock or another flavorful liquid.


Paprika sauce is often found in the cuisine of Hungary, due to the widespread availability of paprika since the spice is produced in the country. Hungarian cuisine uses the sauce in a variety of traditional dishes, including paprikash, a classic dish of sautéed chicken pieces covered in a paprika and sour cream sauce. It may also be served over spaetzle, a type of traditional Hungarian dumplings, or egg noodles.

Sweet paprika is made from dried red bell peppers.
Sweet paprika is made from dried red bell peppers.

Although Hungarian cuisine tends to be most widely associated with paprika sauce, Spanish cuisine incorporates the sauce into their dishes as well. Spanish dishes tend to use a sauce made from Spanish paprika with a thinner, chicken stock base. It is served with a variety of small dishes, referred to as tapas, such as potatoes, chicken, or seafood, that are served in appetizer size portions rather than a larger main course. Regardless of the cuisine, paprika sauces tend to be versatile and served over a variety of starches, vegetables, and meats.

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Discussion Comments


There is a Spanish restaurant close to my house that serves chicken in paprika sauce. It also has rice and some sautéed greens. It is a simple but deceptively delicious dish. You see it and think it will just be chicken in red sauce but by the end you want to order another plate.

Paprika is a spice that often gets overlooked but it has a really rich complex flavor. I always keep some on my spice shelf because it can elevate the flavor of just about anything.

One of the most exotic meals I have ever eaten was a smoked octopus served in a paprika sauce. I was at an international foods festival and one of the dishes at the Hungarian pavilion was octopus. I am a pretty adventurous eater but I had never had octopus before.

The flavor was incredible. It was chewy and delicate tasting and the paprika sauce was an amazing compliment. The flavor of the octopus is mild but the sauce does not overpower it. That was a day with a lot of good food but that dish stood out above the rest.


I spent some time in Hungary and I fell in love with paprika sauce while I was there. It shows up on just about every table and it tastes great on anything.

It is kind of like ketchup but more interesting. The flavor has the richness of mayonnaise and the spice of hot sauce. It is good on everything from meat to potatoes. There is an international food store close to my house where I can buy it.

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    • Paprika.
    • Sweet paprika is made from dried red bell peppers.
      By: Natika
      Sweet paprika is made from dried red bell peppers.
    • Paprika is made from ground chili peppers.
      By: Giuseppe Porzani
      Paprika is made from ground chili peppers.
    • Sour cream is often added to paprika sauce once the sauce has completed cooking.
      By: Viktor
      Sour cream is often added to paprika sauce once the sauce has completed cooking.